As a human sexuality educator, educating my own kids on all things sex and sexuality should have been a breeze. I wanted them to be knowledgable and protected, of course, but being a mom heightened my awareness and my sensitivity to what they should and shouldn't know at any given time. It is so much easier spreading knowledge and guidance to clients because I am not clouded or distracted by the mama-bear hat.
What we sometimes don't realize (or need to be reminded of) is that the better informed our kids are, the bigger the knowledge base they'll have to pull from when they have to make decisions, big or small. (The same goes for all of us, really. Age doesn't play a factor.)
After the numerous teenagers and young adults who have come my way seeking guidance and answers, I look back and wish I hadn't been so reluctant with my own at first. But I was afraid — not that the information would increase their curiosity, but of the fact that they were growing up so fast; I wanted to cherish every little moment that I had. It was selfish, really. Our job as parents is to provide our kids with the knowledge that empowers and elevates their minds to new heights of awareness.
So we need to find comfort in the uncomfortable, ease in the uneasy. When we do this, we can then allow ourselves to enjoy the journey with our kids, and it can become something we look forward to doing together. Because if we don't educate them, someone else will. And trust me, the knowledge that is out there for our kids to consume isn't always factual and definitely isn't always age appropriate. Once I got over the fear, each conversation I was able to have with my kids was so enjoyable.
Sometimes we hesitate to share our experiences with our kids, but it is so important that they know and understand that we are human and have made (and will continue to make) mistakes. What's beautiful about these learning opportunities is that you can explain to them what was gained from your experience and what knowledge you walked away with. Are we afraid that our kids are going to make the same mistakes we did? Are we afraid that by talking to them about our experiences, we may encourage them or pique their interest in sex? Research has shown the very opposite. I cannot stress enough: when we build a firm foundation based on facts and coming from a place of love and nonjudgment, our kids will make better choices. We do our kids a complete disservice if we come from the mindset of "let them figure it out" or "it is just something I am not in a place to discuss with my children."
If you just can't go there, ask a trusted adult to be your backup. No one has all of the answers, so it's perfectly acceptable to ask for help. I wish I had known more when I was growing up. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. Sex is not a topic that is discussed in most homes. And why? We talk about most other topics. We are a product of our environment. If sex wasn't discussed in your home when you were growing up, the chances of it being discussed with your kids is not likely.
This is, however, such an easy pattern to change. It may not be easy in the beginning, but the more you practice, the easier and less awkward it gets. Start when they are young with short little convos. Just start! The conversations need to be an ongoing, open-ended chat about age-appropriate sex-related topics. The more you talk, the easier it will be for you and the easier it will be for your kiddo to come to you for a chat or to ask questions. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather my child come to me and ask what "oral sex" is than someone at school.
This is a stage where no topic is off limits. Our kids are learning about sex from friends, the internet, experimentation, porn, or even unfortunate situations they may find themselves in. The more accurate information they are provided with, the more educated they are. The more educated they are, the more aware they are of the consequences of their choices. The more aware they are, the more confident they will be in making the best decisions for themselves.
Our kiddos need to be properly equipped with comprehensive knowledge about sex and sexuality. We cannot rely exclusively on the school system to provide the facts to our children. We, as parents, need to do our part. The human sexuality component of the curriculum in North America is not enough. It is centered on the teaching of abstinence, is not based on science and research, and has proven time and again to be ineffective in preventing pregnancy or STIs among adolescents. Presenting them with a one-option-only viewpoint is not realistic and is completely narrow-minded. Providing them with a more comprehensive approach has shown to be way more effective in helping our kids make the most well-educated choices.
Healthy, informative, and age-appropriate sexual education is not only a human right, it is critical in guiding our kids as they learn to navigate relationships and become sexually healthy adults. We wear many hats as parents, and all of them are important in raising our kids. The life-skills educator hat may just be one of the most challenging to don, but suit up, my friends: it also may be one of the most instrumental and influential accessories you will ever wear.